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National Integrity Bills 2018

Posted November 26, 2018

 

The National Integrity Commission Bill 2018 and the National Integrity (Parliamentary Standards) Bill 2018 is a package of bills to promote public trust and confidence in the integrity of Parliament, the public sector and the system of Government. The intent is to create a nationally coordinated integrity framework, with an emphasis on prevention, supported by strong powers of investigation to enable criminal charges or other actions in response to cases of corruption.

National Integrity (Parliamentary Standards) Bill 2018

Speech 3/12/2018

Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (10:43): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill, National Integrity (Parliamentary Standards) Bill 2018, is a part of a package of bills to promote public trust and confidence in the integrity of parliament, the public sector and our system of government. The package is about creating a culture of integrity, a proactive and solutions focused approach to preventing corruption. This package will implement option 3 of the Transparency International and Griffith University paper Strengthening Australia's national integrity system: priorities for reform. The bill will operate alongside the National Integrity Commission Bill 2018, which I introduced into this place last week.

The bill incorporates aspects and builds on the work of others. I'd particularly like to acknowledge the work of the Committee of Privileges and Members' Interests in their 2011 report Draft code of conduct for members of parliament, in the 43rd Parliament, and the work of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in their 2015 report Recommended benchmarks for code of conduct applying to members of parliament. The intent of this package is to create a nationally coordinated integrity framework, with an emphasis on prevention, supported by strong powers of investigation to enable criminal charges or other actions in response to cases of corruption.

What will the bill do? This bill focuses on values and a code of conduct. The bill sets out the values parliamentarians hold, as well as a code of conduct. This includes having respect for others regardless of background, dealing with conflicts of interest, using position for profit, outside employment, accepting gifts or hospitality, use of influence and use of public resources. The code requires that a parliamentarian must ensure that their conduct, as a parliamentarian, does not bring discredit upon the parliament.

The values and code of conduct are based on the recommendations of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), of which this parliament is a member. The CPA recommendations are based on extensive research, including by Queensland's Fitzgerald royal commission, the UK Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life, and original research on codes of conduct, commissioned by the CPA, led by Adjunct Professor Ken Coghill.

The bill places the register of interests into legislation, and these are unchanged. This move is ahead of further reviews to lobbying and post-separation employment and regulation of donations and campaign regulation, that are established by this bill. The intent is to eventually have all parliamentary integrity functions operating under a single framework. The Parliamentary Integrity Adviser will be established as an independent office of the parliament. Their role will be to provide independent confidential advice to parliamentarians and our staff about ethics of integrity issues. This model is based on the work of the Committee of Privileges and Members' Interests in the 43rd Parliament and on the operation of the Queensland Integrity Act.

The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner will be an independent office of the parliament. Their role will be:

to investigate alleged or suspected breaches of a code of conduct, including a parliamentary code of conduct;

at the request of a minister, including the Prime Minister, investigate alleged or suspected breaches of the ministerial code of conduct; and

at the request of a presiding officer or a committee of a house of the parliament, investigate and report on any matters related to ethical and integrity standards among parliamentarians or our staff.

The commissioner will be independent and report through the relevant privileges committee or minister or the Prime Minister depending on the origin of the referral. The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner will have the power of the Auditor-General in conducting investigations. Any person will be able to make referrals to the commissioners, but the commissioner can determine how to deal with the referrals. If there is a question of corruption beyond a breach of a code of conduct, the commissioner may refer the matter to the National Integrity Commission.

The drafting of this bill was a collaboration with some of Australia's leading thinkers strengthening the integrity of parliament. I acknowledge the assistance of the Hon. Dr Ken Coghill, born in Mansfield in my electorate and former councillor at Wodonga, both in the Indi electorate. He is an associate professor at Monash University and an adjunct professor at Swinburne University. Ken is a member of the government's Open Government Forum, founding member of the Accountability Round Table and former speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria. He was lead author of the code of conduct recommendations adopted by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

I also acknowledge the work of Professor AJ Brown and Transparency International and thank them for their support in pulling together this package of reforms. Without their support we would not have been able to put together such a simple but comprehensive package. I would also like to acknowledge House of Representatives legislative drafter Olivia Gossip. I cannot speak highly enough about the support given to us by drafters. But to Olivia Gossip: thank you for the hours, the time, the energy and the professional skill you have brought to this bill. I acknowledge my own staff, who have worked long and hard on this work, but I particularly acknowledge my political and parliamentary adviser, Jeremy. Thank you very much for your work. All the bills presented today, and the work, have been done with those two, in particular, excellent staff.

But, colleagues, what I really want to say in bringing my comments to a close is: what will it take for this parliament to introduce a code of conduct and surrounding legislation? We have been at this since 2012. We on the crossbench know how important it is. Our communities know how important it is. Industry knows how important it is. To think that we operate in this House without a code of conduct, without an understanding of what it actually means to be a politician and without the resources that we need to get advice on sometimes very tricky ethical issues and then, if need be, to take steps further on corruption! To me, it's an absolute no-brainer. I say to the government: what will it take for you, in this term of parliament, to do what everybody's asking of you—to step up to the plate and to give us the legislation we need? I know you find it difficult. I know, government, you want to argue with me about definitions, but we're up for that. We're grown-ups. We're happy to have the debate in this parliament, but we need our colleagues on the other side to step up and to front up to the fact that we haven't got a code of conduct and that we need one.

I'd now like my colleague from the crossbench, the member for Mayo, to make her comments in support of this as a seconder of the motion.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Rob Mitchell ): Is the motion seconded?

Read the National Integrity (Parliamentary Standards) Bill 2018 here:

https://parlwork.aph.gov.au/bills/r6233

National Integrity Commission Bill 2018

First speech 26/11/2018

Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (10:31): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

There are three main points to my speech today. The first is to call on the government for action. The second is to outline the important elements of this bill. And the third is to acknowledge the support of the crossbenchers in bringing this bill to parliament, because surely today I'm part of a team, and this team represents the combined feelings of the people of Australia for our government to take national action in setting up a national integrity commission.

We have brought to this parliament what we think is best practice, and we now call on the government to tell us why not. And if they can't tell us why not, what they need to tell us is what it will take to bring to this parliament something that they will agree to. But it's not just for the government to agree to it—our call is for this whole parliament to work in a bipartisan way to give this country what it needs, and to do that before the next election so that we do not go to the election in 2019 arguing about the need for this bill.

In presenting this bill today I will now outline the main aspects of the bill. It's a package of bills that we put forward with the aim of promoting public trust and confidence in the integrity of parliament, the public sector and a system of government.

The package is about creating a culture of integrity and a proactive and solutions focused approach to preventing corruption.

The intent is to create a nationally coordinated integrity framework, with an emphasis on prevention, supported by strong powers of intervention to enable criminal charges or other actions in response to cases of corruption.

But rather than simply focusing on public naming and shaming, the objective of this package is to create a national culture of integrity where the expectation is that all of us are our best selves.

But the bill does not just stand alone. It's on the shoulders of giants that I present the work today. I acknowledge the Australian Research Council's Linkage Projects scheme and Strengthening Australia's National Integrity System: Priorities for Reform, led by Transparency International Australia and Griffith University. I'm delighted to welcome to parliament today Fiona McLeod and Professor AJ Brown and thank you for your work. I acknowledge the report of the Senate Select Committee on a National Integrity Commission in 2017, the Australian Greens' bill of the same name—first introduced to parliament in 2012—and the recommendation of The Australia Institute's National Integrity Committee.

In developing this bill we have taken a similar approach to the Australian Greens bill by modelling the investigative functions of the commission on the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, known as ACLEI.

In most cases, the powers mirror those of the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner. This is a tried-and-tested approach at the Commonwealth level, and this bill incorporates best practice from the integrity framework of other jurisdictions. We've learnt our lesson; it's not a cut-and-paste of the state based integrity commission.

At a Commonwealth level there is a need for different approaches, where coordination, prevention and protection exist alongside the investigative role.

The bill complements the Australian government's support for the Open Government Partnership and will help ensure Australia meets its obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption, the OECD Convention on foreign bribery and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

What will the bill do?

The bill will establish the Australian National Integrity Commission as an independent, broad based, public sector anticorruption commission for the Commonwealth.

Coordination

The commission will be the lead agency for key functions, both existing and proposed, in a Commonwealth integrity framework and it will fill gaps in coverage.

It will act as a partner to existing Commonwealth and state integrity and law enforcement agencies, with provisions for referrals, joint investigations and joint projects.

Pro-integrity

It will be pro integrity. The commission will lead a strong and embedded corruption prevention program, with education, research and investigation for the Commonwealth public sector.

The commission will lead the development of a rolling national integrity and anticorruption action plan, with wide participation, and oversight its implementation, playing a strategic coordination role across all sectors and jurisdictions.

Investigation

The commission will have the power of a royal commission to investigate, where necessary, corruption issues involving or affecting the Commonwealth government, to be executed at the discretion of the commissioner.

It may hold a public inquiry and/or public hearings where satisfied that this is the most effective means of investigation and, on balance, will be in the public interest.

Referrals to the commission can be made by anybody who identifies a corruption issue.

There will be a mandatory reporting requirement for public officials and Commonwealth agency heads.

The commissioner will have the discretion on how to manage referrals, including dealing with frivolous or vexatious referrals.

After due process, the commission will be empowered to make findings of fact to be referred then to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions or other enforcement agencies for consideration for prosecution in criminal cases.

It will also be empowered to make other findings of fact and recommendations, including by way of public report, in relation to non-criminal corruption issues, prevention and others areas of integrity reform.

Protection

The Whistleblower Protection Commissioner—and I dedicate this section to my colleague Andrew Wilkie—will:

receive and investigate disclosures of wrongdoing; and

provide advice, assistance, guidance and support to persons and agencies relating to the making of disclosure or wrongdoing.

The Whistleblower Protection Commissioner will partner with the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Australian Securities Investment Commission.

It will act as the whistleblower protection authority for the Commonwealth public sector and Commonwealth regulated private and not-for-profit agencies, as recommended by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services.

Who will hold the commission to account?

The bill will also establish bodies to monitor the activities and administration of the National Integrity Commission:

the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian National Integrity Commission; and

the Parliamentary Inspector of the Australian National Integrity Commission will be established by this bill as an independent office of the parliament.

It will also be subject to judicial review by the federal and high courts of Australia.

The bill will operate alongside a second bill, which I will introduce next week—the National Integrity (Parliamentary Standards) Bill 2018. Together, it is our intention that these bills will boost confidence in the Commonwealth parliament by equipping it to prevent, manage and resolve its own integrity issues, where possible, while also providing clear pathways for investigation and resolution of serious corruption issues.

With my remaining time, I would now like to call on the seconder of the bill, the member for Mayo, to add her comments to why this bill is important for the future of Australia.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Rob Mitchell ): We'll just wait for the process. Is the motion seconded?

 

National Integrity Commission Bill 2018 second speech 26/11/2018

Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (12:46): I thank the member for Kennedy for sharing those stories with us. I also acknowledge the wisdom that he brings to this particular process. I actually want to address the what and how of this. Minister, I welcome your comments and certainly those from the Labor side. To me, the art of parliament is doing exactly what we've done here—you make your best effort and, as a private member, you bring the legislation to the House and ask, 'Okay, how can we, together, make this better?' Minister, I ask you: what will you do to help us make this legislation better? Certainly, I'm open to the critique that you bring to it. I also acknowledge your expertise in this area and also your access to your department. Clearly the whole parliament is looking to you to look at this legislation and make it better. I don't think it's appropriate, at this stage, to critique it in the detail which obviously needs to happen, but today what we're asking from you is the higher moral ground. We're asking: 'What is the government going to do about this? What is the government's position on this? What would it take for the government to come to what has been the most generous of speeches by the crossbench and Labor and work together, to do what we know the Australian people want—which is for us to work together on a thing that matters to them, which is trusting institutions?' So, Minister, I'm really pleased that you're here and you're part of the debate, but my call to you is: can you please tell us what, when and how?

I pick up the member for Melbourne's comment of, 'Could we do it by Christmas?' because we all know, if this doesn't get resolved and we go to an election, how really bitterly this will be fought out. The stories of corruption that my colleague from Queensland tells us that we know are not very far below the surface will all come to the fore and we will spend our time arguing the detail and not doing what we know the people of Australia want us to do—work together and work in harmony. That's what we need to do.

The second thing I want to say is a little bit about why I'm so passionate about this. The background for me is I'm a farmer by trade and inclination. My profession is agriculture. I really, really care about how agriculture is run in this country. I've had a lifetime of work with the department of agriculture and the public servants in it. So you could imagine my enormous distress when I read the Moss review that came down recently. I congratulate the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud, the member for Maranoa, for doing that review. But it showed us what is currently happening in the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, which we love, about an issue that farmers particularly care about—the welfare of our sheep and our livestock—and we could see that not only is the department not able to do its job but people have been intimidated and there's been a significant failure of the application of the regulations that needed to happen.

So, for me, the main job of the government is to make sure that we make rules, that they're enforced, and that the regulation happens. I welcome the member for Farrer to the chamber for this bit: in live export we've had a huge failing of regulation. A commission like that we're talking about is exactly what could have helped very early. The people who knew there was a problem could have gone to this commission and said: 'We've got problems here. We don't think it's corrupt, but things aren't working out. Could you do an investigation?' We could have spared ourselves so much of the trouble we've had and the huge community angst around how the live sheep export business is being operated because our community in the Public Service didn't have a place to go to get it addressed. So that Moss example, for me, is just an absolute standout of why we need this sort of commissioner and why we need it now.

Minister, I take on board your comments about the definition and about retrospectivity. If I could make a comment about retrospectivity and why it's in the bill, I, for one, am not a fan of retrospectivity—ever—but I know with corruption that there's often history—not always but frequently there's a story that needs to be understood. If we don't give this commission power to actually look at the history, to look at the story, of what we basically call deep-rooted corruption that has a past, we can't address it in the future. I'm really happy to work with you, Minister, your department and your staff about how we can do that better. But we can't just pretend that we're only going to look at things that go wrong from here on into the future, because so many things that we know don't work—for example, in the department—are because there's a history of how things were done, a history of how people were treated and a history of fear. You've actually got to do some degree of retrospectivity to address that. I would be really pleased to work with you and your department to get some words about how we could make this better in the future, but I don't want to ignore the past.

I welcome your presence in the debate, Minister, but, from the bottom of my heart, I call out: 'Come back and tell us this week that the government, across the parliament, will accept the offer from Labor and from us to work together,' because, truly, it's only the government stopping this happening. We know that you're basically in favour of it. We know that the previous Prime Minister was basically in favour of it. We suspect that most of your backbench are in favour of it. What we're asking for now is some leadership in how we work together to get what the country wants, which is the ability to trust that we in this parliament can actually work in a way that gives people trust in our processes and our integrity in working together. I'll leave my comments there but look forward to continuing the conversation with you.

Read the National Integrity Commission Bill 2018 here:
https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=r6217

Watch the crossbench press conference here:
https://www.facebook.com/CathyMcgowanForIndi/videos/2706859716206203/


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